Guan Eng hits out at Liang over Penang water rates issue

Lim-Guan-Eng-Liang-Teck-Meng-waterGEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng says the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) was “unhappy” after the Penang government refused to increase water rates in the state to its liking.

He said this was because Penang had resorted to an increase in water conservation surcharge (WCS), which is a penalty on water wasters, instead of increasing water rates across the board, as suggested by SPAN.

This was after SPAN chairman Liang Teck Meng claimed the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) wanted to impose a “broad and big” increase in water rates in the state.

Liang said this in response to Lim, who had earlier said it was SPAN which wanted all states to have their water rates increased and “standardised”.

Liang said Lim’s remarks were “pure slander” and asked the chief minister for permission to release a letter showing that PBA had asked for an increase in water rates in an attempt to exonerate SPAN.

In a response today, Lim, who is PBA chairman, said Liang was pretentious in asking for the letter, as he had already revealed its contents through a statement on July 20.

“And yet, in his July 20 statement, he outlined what was stated in that PBA letter, making his request for my permission an insincere and fake request, which cannot mask his immaturity and bumbling eagerness to score political points.

“… if he feels that my response is that he has given a sign that the federal government wants Penang to increase its water rates in line with other states is pure slander, then he is welcome to sue me and Bernama,” Lim said in a statement today.

Lim was referring to a news report by Bernama on July 20, which quoted Liang as saying that it was best for Penang to standardise its water rates and WCS.

The Bernama report read: “The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) has received an application from the Penang state government to raise the water conservation surcharge (SPA) for domestic consumption in the state, but has yet to make a decision on it.

“SPAN chairman Liang Teck Meng said the decision has yet to be finalised as SPAN believes that if the state government aspires to raise the SPA, it is more appropriate to simultaneously raise tariff rates.”

Lim also gave a detailed timeline of letters between PBA and SPAN, saying PBA had initially applied to SPAN to increase water tariffs on Dec 23 last year, but withdrew the application on Feb 21 this year.

He said SPAN, on April 25, wrote back to PBA, “objecting strongly” over its withdrawal.

Lim said on June 23, SPAN wrote another letter to PBA, saying its plans to increase the WCS would “not generate sufficient revenue for PBA and that a water tariff increase should be considered”.

Lim added that he felt Liang had breached the protocol of being SPAN chairman when he released the statement on July 20 as Gerakan secretary-general.

“The Penang government is proud that PBA is still able to maintain the lowest water tariffs in the country at 32 sen for every 1,000 litres for the first 35,000 litres of water.

“This compares with Liang’s home state of Johor, that charges four times higher at RM1.32.

“Further, we are even prouder that despite climate change that has caused many states to impose water rationing over the last six years, Penang remains the only state in Malaysian history that has never imposed water rationing.

“Liang should pay more attention to his own home state of Johor in terms of reducing both water tariffs and the frequency of water rationing.”

Penang used the highest volume of water at 286 litres/capita/day (l/c/d) last year, compared with the national average of 209 l/c/d.

Comparatively, Singapore recorded 152 l/c/d in the same year. The United Nations’ recommendation is 148 l/c/d.

It was previously announced that a surcharge of RM1 would be imposed on every 1,000 litres of water after 35,000 litres of water were used.

Previously, the WCS was 48 sen for every 1,000 litres of water used after total water use exceeds 35,000 litres.

According to the PBA, the surcharge is applicable to 25% of 504,400 domestic users, which comes up to about 126,000 users.